Reviewed for accuracy on November 18, 2019, by Dr. Katie Grzyb, DVM
Many pet parents don’t realize that a big part of their dog’s wellness is their dental health. By the age of 3, most dogs will already be showing signs of periodontal disease, which can greatly impact their well-being.
“Periodontal health is just as important in dogs and cats as it is in us. It’s not an area that should be ignored. But sometimes it is,” says Dr. Glenn Brigden, DVM at Pacific Coast Veterinary Dentistry and Oral Surgery in Encinitas, California, and a Diplomat of the American Veterinary Dental College. “Fortunately, in the last 10-15 years, dentistry has grown significantly, and people recognize the importance of keeping their pets healthy.”
While brushing at home and offering dental treats can help to keep plaque and tartar under control, the best way to keep your dog’s mouth and teeth healthy is to take them to the vet for a professional dental cleaning.
But how much do dog teeth cleanings cost, and what is it that you’re paying for?
Here’s an overview on what you can expect and a general idea of how much you might pay for your dog’s dental cleaning.
How Much Does Dog Teeth Cleaning Cost?
Dog teeth cleaning costs vary across the board and are influenced by many different factors.
Some veterinary practices bill for dental work by the type of procedure performed or by the time it takes to complete the procedure, explains Dr. Brigden.
If a clinic bills by procedures, a cleaning might only cost a few hundred dollars, but you might end up paying a few thousand dollars if your pet is having oral surgery like an extraction involving a large tooth.
“Costs can vary significantly with region of the country and degree of dental disease,” says Dr. Judy Morgan, DVM. “I own two practices in southern New Jersey, and our dental prices range from around $500 up to $1,000. These prices do not include oral radiographs, which could add $150-$200 more.”
Dr. Morgan has seen her patients visit veterinary dental specialists for cleaning and extractions that have paid anywhere from $2,000-$3,000.
The main reason a dog dental cleaning is an expensive procedure is because of the X-rays and anesthesia required for the procedure.
“Dental X-rays are really important to assessing periodontal disease and the health of teeth below the gumline. Unfortunately, they require anesthesia,” says Dr. Brigden. And anesthesia tends to be pricy.
“It's difficult to compare pricing because someone with a lower cost may not be providing pre-op screening, IV fluids or certified technicians,” says Dr. Morgan.
Dr. Brigden says many of the cheaper places may not be performing X-rays, which are important to providing dogs with high-quality and thorough dental care.
Talk with your veterinarian to find out how they charge for dental cleanings and what is included in the rate.
Tooth-Extraction and Root Canals Are Additional Costs
Dr. Brigden explains that additional procedures will lead to added costs. His practice bills by time since extracting one tooth from one dog might take 10 minutes and extracting another might take 30 minutes.
Dr. Morgan offers a simple breakdown of what you might be charged in her practice.
“A simple extraction can be as little as $10-$15,” says Dr. Morgan. “Elevated extractions would be more, depending on the work needed to get the tooth out, but ours range from $25-$35 per tooth. Teeth with multiple roots that may need to be split with a drill can cost up to $100 per tooth.”
“Root canals are charged by the root,” says Dr. Jeff Werber, DVM. “A three-rooted tooth could range between $1,000-$3,000, depending on the root. Teeth like the upper fourth premolar, which is a three-rooted tooth, would essentially be considered three root canals.”
How Long Does a Dog Dental Cleaning Take, and What Happens During One?
In general, a cleaning with no extractions takes roughly 45 minutes to one hour.
First, the vet performs a physical examination and determines whether it’s safe for your dog to receive anesthesia. If so, your dog will be sedated, intubated to maintain a clear airway, and administered oxygen and anesthetic gas.
Most veterinarians will also place an intravenous catheter (IV) and administer fluids throughout anesthesia to support your dog’s blood pressure and organ health.
The teeth are cleaned with an ultrasonic scaler—a tool that vibrates at a high speed—to remove large pieces of plaque and tartar. A hand scaler is then used to clean under the gumline of every tooth and on all sides of the tooth.
Dental probes—small instruments that can fit between the gum and tooth—are used to measure the depth of the pockets found between tooth and gum. This is an important step because abnormally deep pockets indicate periodontal disease.
Once all plaque and tartar are removed, the mouth is rinsed and all tooth surfaces are polished. If the teeth are not polished, small etchings left on the teeth from cleaning can attract more plaque and tartar to adhere in the small grooves.
After polishing, the mouth is rinsed again, and a fluoride treatment can be applied, says Dr. Morgan.
How Often Should You Get Your Dog’s Teeth Professionally Cleaned?
Dr. Brigden recommends getting your dog’s teeth professionally cleaned anywhere from once every six months to once a year, depending on the dog.
Smaller dogs are more prone to periodontal disease due to teeth crowding in the mouth, so they may need dentals more often. “Crowding retains more plaque. And more plaque retention leads to periodontal disease,” says Dr. Brigden.
If you’re taking good care of your dog’s teeth at home, you might be able to get away with not going quite as often. You’ll want to discuss this with your vet to determine the best course of action.
When Is It Time for a Dog Dental Cleaning?
Bad breath is usually the first indicator that you should bring your pet in to see the vet, says Dr. Brigden. Other signs you should watch out for include:
- Bleeding gums
- Seeing blood on chews or toys
- Difficulty eating
Aftercare for Dog Teeth Cleaning Procedures
Most dogs can generally start eating a regular diet 12-48 hours after a cleaning. The anesthesia needs to work itself out of the dog’s body, says Dr. Brigden.
If a vet’s performing extractions or major surgery, it might take pets three to five days to fully recover. Dr. Brigden recommends softening your pet’s food so they can eat it comfortably during this time. Your dog may also be sent home with pain meds.
Tips for Caring for Your Dog’s Teeth Between Dental Cleanings
“Brushing is the gold standard,” says Dr. Brigden.
If your dog won’t let you brush their teeth, you can try using dog dental sprays or water additives, though Dr. Brigden cautions that they’re not as effective.
You can also give your dog something to chew on.
Dr. Brigden says that dental treats are great, but chew toys are also a good option. In his opinion, anything that you can break, bend or flex in your hands is okay. If the chew toy is not flexible enough, it could chip or crack your dog’s teeth.
By: Teresa Traverse
Featured Image: iStock.com/TheDogPhotographer